STORMBREAKER - Q&A with author ANTHONY HOROWITZ
Movie Interview by Dan Spiers
On the eve of STORMBREAKER's release, Daniel Spiers spoke to Anthony Horowitz about adapting his own novel into a major Hollywood motion picture. A media circus is coming and Anthony Horowitz is as yet unsure whether the flowers given will squirt water in his eye.
STORMBREAKER was a really successful book, what were you trying to achieve with the movie?
When the producer Mark Samuelson first bought the book I didn't want to write the screenplay. I was very nervous about it. I thought the book worked really well as a book and I didn't want to chop it up, change things and spoil it. But then they persuaded me to do it because if I didn't, then somebody else would and it seemed better to keep some measure of control than send it off to Hollywood, wait two years and get something unrecognizable back.
The casting of STORMBREAKER was interesting, particularly the villains, what did you think of the slightly camp 1970's edge they were given?
They are very odd. Mickey Rourke (who plays Darrius Sayle) doesn't quite appear to be from the same film as Andy Serkis (who plays Grim), which is my fault.
The villains in STORMBREAKER are more extreme than in other Alex books. There are shades of Austin Powers in there. In STORMBREAKER you've got characters like Nadia Vole and Grim, but the villains become more subtle as the books progress. The STORMBREAKER villains are a bizarre collection. They are extreme, but 1970s? Oh god, I'm worried now. You may be right. If it's a criticism, I accept it.
No, I enjoyed that aspect!
OK, well thanks. I think villains are the hardest things to do in films of this sort. You've got to avoid complete self-parody so perhaps being slightly camp is part of the answer.
There are few major differences between the novel and screenplay. The only one seems to be the change in name of the lead villain from Herod to Darrius Sayle and the way in which he and his side kick Grim seem to have swapped physical characteristics. How did this come about?
That's absolutely right. In the book Sayle is much more David Suchet than Mickey Rourke. The reason is because as soon as the script was sent out and Harvey Weinstein became involved, suddenly Mickey Rourke was being banded around as being the villain. Then it was likelihood. Obviously he couldn't play the part as written. He had to be white and American.
Though he does retain a remarkable tan.
Well, he is Mickey Rourke, but I was looking for Californian trailer trash. The point about the character is he is someone who has suffered at the hands of the English class system. And the English can be as mean about Americans as they can about Arabs. It seemed the right way to go so I completely rewrote the character, which was the only piece of casting that required that.
Place seemed to be really important to the movie. London was central to the book but even more so to the film.
Yes. I'm really pleased you can't say this film looks like a London film of the 1970s, you know, that bobbies and buses look. I think Chris Seager and Geoff Sacs did a really good job of delivering up a London that is fresh. London is vital to the book and vital to the film. I've lived here all my life. London is a big character in the film and looks really good.
STORMBREAKER seems to offer more than a tourist route through London.
Yes, the scrap metal scene reflects that and also the bicycle chase. I've spoken to a lot of journalists and not one of them has commented that this is a British film with a chase through London that can really hold its own against anything else in the world.
Who is the film aimed at? You've got six year-olds yelping in anticipation of this movie.
That's part of the problem we've got. Movies are so much more difficult than books because you have very little control over who sees them. If 6 year olds come to the film we have a responsibility not to make it too violent or bloody, but at the same time the target audience is 8 - 15 years, and they demand a grittier film. I didn't really give any consideration to who I was writing the movie for. I just wrote the story. I think the producers and distributors were more worried about who the film was aimed at and they still are.
But I hope the six year-olds are entertained by it. There's nothing too violent in there. I'd like to think of the audience as a family audience. I've been wanting to do a film that caters to families for years, because there aren't many films that do it.
Other than animation.
Yes, SHREK, TOY STORY, that's our audience.
There are obvious comparisons to be drawn between Alex Ryder and Bond. What do you think makes Alex distinct from a young James Bond?
Mainly the fact he doesn't want to do the job. He doesn't want to be a spy. He is almost blackmailed into it and doesn't really enjoy it that much either. It's not CODY BANKS where it becomes a complete laugh and cool to be a spy. Alex just wants to go to school and experience ordinary life.
So are you ready for the media hullabaloo that's about to descend on you?
I don't know. I'm a week away from the best and worst week of my life. The problem with these things is you just have no control. I look back at the whole process of making the film and think is there anything I could have done differently? Could I have fought harder against that or for that? And the answer is no. The film we made is the film we wanted to make. I stand by it.
And is the next Alex Ryder screenplay in development?
Yes, Point Blank, the next novel, has been commissioned. It's only on its fourth draft and there were 14 on STORMBREAKER. All the indications are there will be a second film, but ask me when STORMBREAKER has come out, particularly in America.
You ask who the film is for? Well, if the Americans don't buy it how are we going to make the sequel? We will see.